The emergence of Jakob Poeltl during the basketball season was a welcome surprise for the 2014-15 Runnin' Utes. Coming out of Austria as a relatively unknown commodity, not many were sure how his abilities would translate from the Austrian Bundesliga to the NCAA. Looking back, any doubts proved to be unfounded at Poeltl developed into one the best big men in college basketball. His emergence was a main story throughout the basketball season, but his decision to return for his sophomore season might become the bigger story when all is said and done.
The 7-foot center did not waste any time becoming a key cog in the lineup, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in his collegiate debut against Ball State.
After the season ended Utah fans and coaches alike waited with bated breath to hear if Poeltl would stay for another year or depart for the NBA draft. The big man from Austria definitely had some holes in his game to work on, namely lack of strength and a tendency to disappear at times, but had shown more than enough talent to warrant a first round selection in the draft. While many thought staying could benefit his game, few expected he would actually return.
Coach Larry Krystkowiak pitched the opportunity to continue developing in an environment Poeltl was comfortable with in Utah, and used his previous experience coaching in the NBA to persuade the center to stay for another year of coaching. In the end Krystkowiak got his wish and Poeltl's return immediately raises the expectations for next season.
Heading into the 2015-16 season Poeltl will be regarded as a top player not only in the Pac-12 but in the country. There are not many 7 footers as skilled as Poeltl. His athleticism for his frame as well as his ability to score around the rim and block shots, make Poeltl an All-American candidate for next year. The 7-footer will anchor a senior laden team that will include Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor and Dakari Tucker. Sophomores Kyle Kuzma and Brekkott Chapman are poised for breakout seasons, and the addition of JUCO players Gabe Bealer and Lorenzo Bonam will help compensate for the loss of Delon Wright.
Heading into next season Poeltl has an opportunity to add bulk, refine his skills and add some new post moves. If all goes according to plan, the Utes should have another successful regular season and potentially another tourney run before Poeltl enters the 2016 NBA draft as a lottery pick.
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